EgoTripping

As I celebrated the beginning of my 4th decade I found myself in a most unimaginable situation. Single, jobless, alone and adrift. I felt like the universe wrapped a midlife crisis up with a giant bow for my milestone birthday.

Sitting with my ‘gift’ as the day came to an end, I thought back to the beginning of my adventure. I started this journey with certainty, passion and a heightened sense of direction and purpose. Things weren’t firing for me in Charlotte and I “just knew” this opportunity would be just the kick start I needed.

Turns out, it was a kick in the teeth.

As my world unraveled – a sick aunt engaged in her last battle, energetic turmoil at work, and an unsettled environment – my friend and soul sister called to check in. She could “feel” how frazzled I had become. “How did you know?” I asked.  “You are a vortex,” she said.

Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t realize my vortex was pulling negativity in on me with the energy I expelled.

It was only after the ball of yarn completely unraveled and lay in a gnarled and knotted heap did I take a long, hard, painfully honest look at my situation: no man, no job, no home that I wanted to go home to.

I checked my pride, broke lease and embarked on the life of a wanderer.

“I’m not supposed to be here,” became my theme song – with a refrain that sang, “This isn’t how my life is supposed to be!!!”

And that’s when the larger Voice I call God said, “But this is the way it is.”

This is the way it is.

Sitting on a dock, beer in hand, my utter exhaustion gave way to absolute acceptance.

This. Is. The. Way. It. Is.

Let me not lie, it took two weeks of wandering before my brain started to work again. My first day as a gypsy, I literally sat at a red light and had the conversation with myself as it changed, “Green means go, right? Yes, green. Go.” (BLESS!)

One of the most interesting things happening as I explore rock bottom is a reinterpretation of self. A revised definition of who I am. Because, how easy is it to say, “I’m Brandy, XYZ with ABC company.” How often have I relied on my career, wins and successes to create my identity? How long have I hid behind my job rather than relying on my most authentic self?

So the question became, “Without a label, without a job title, who am I? What do I do? What are my goals? Where am I going?”

When my brain started to function again, ideas came flooding through. I started having lovely conversations about great opportunities. My energy level keyed up and I went on a great walk where I was having the internal dialogue with myself, “Omigosh . . . I could do this and this and this and I talked to so and so and so . . . and just WAIT until I tell LMNOP that DEF wants to work with me . . . he’s going to be so proud and . . . “ [screeeeeech] HOLD THE FUCK UP.

I stopped mid-stride. This is the ego I read about.

Yes, it’s great to have amazing partnerships and projects on the horizon, but these things do not define who I am.

And I damn sure shouldn’t be using them as a worth-bait for catching the interest, respect and admiration of other people. Let that sink in . . . worth-bait.

Stop.

Breathe.

Disengage the ego.

Ask, “Who am I without the labels?”

While I would love to wrap this story up with the tidy ending of a hallelujah choir, I can’t do that. The only answer I have is, quite simply, “I don’t know.”

I don’t know who I am, where I’m going or when. But, I’m learning. I’m observing. I’m growing through confronting the stories I’ve told myself for so long that they’ve become my truth.

I’m reconsidering. I’m re-imagining the story of me . . . and the rewrites are in pencil.

It’s scary as hell.

In religion, there is a period of darkness that precedes an awakening or rebirth . . . a dark night of the soul. So, is this my path to enlightenment? Perhaps.

Is rock bottom a kickass place to rebuild a strong, redefined foundation for a brand new life? Abso-fucking-lutely.

Now, it’s time to get on with it.

Has anyone seen the map for navigating around this ego trip?!?!?

 

 

 

 

Beach Blessings

I went to Girl Scout camp. I hated it.

I love NOT camping. Give me a comfy bed and electricity any day of the week!

So, to go away for a week in the middle of summer heat, sleeping in an XL tent with spiders and a communal shower was my idea of hell. Absolute hell. Even as a kid.

Naturally, the homesickness set in. And, being a resourceful little shit, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I plotted, lied and schemed to make my big break via a single wall phone outside the nurse’s office.

And it was a phenomenal success . . . until I got home. Then, I had chores as my punishment for lying to grown-ups. Oooooopie doooooo.

Homesickness is a funny beast. I visited family for weeks at a time, I had marathon sleepovers with my girlfriends, I went on vacations with and without my parents – without event. But, when I was outside of my “comfort zone,” (aka: Deliverance) my psyche absolutely rejected the experience.

“Danger, danger Will Robinson . . . abort mission . . . abort, abort!!!”

Naturally, when I found myself among apocalyptic storms and the daytime hooker, my psyche gave a similar response. I desperately longed for a yard full of lightning bugs and my ears ached for the sound of katydids, tree frogs and crickets. The difference this time, however, was recognizing the source of discomfort and the consolation of knowing my ability to weather all with a little sidewalk therapy.

I set my morning alarm for 6 and sought to re-embrace my morning walk. I figured getting back into a routine would be the best thing for me. I needed something that felt familiar.

When I got to the beach, I heard the most amazing sound . . . a southern accent. I almost burst into tears.

I started a conversation and we fell into step. As it turns out, he was from Charlotte. Sparkles and stars and happiness!!! He shared the details of his work function and I told him I just moved away from North Carolina.

As we were chatting, a lovely woman with dark chocolate skin, light brown eyes and a head full of beautiful braids came up to us. “Excuse me, this is going to sound strange, but I felt called to come over here and speak a blessing over the two of you. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence we’re all on the beach together this morning.”

I almost burst into tears because I, too, stopped believing in coincidence.

I cupped my hands to receive her words of love, health, happiness, peace and abundance. I poured the words into my heart and thanked her for her generosity of spirit.

On my way back to the little pool cottage, my feet were lighter and my heart beat with a noticeable fullness.

It’s funny that, sometimes, it’s a tiny hit of home that helps ease homesickness – like an accent that wraps around your eardrums like a cashmere blanket.

And, other times, it’s a whole lot of God working through a wonderful Haitian woman speaking blessings over strangers on the beach.

The Daytime Hooker & Other Encounters

I moved to Florida sight unseen. Admittedly, not my best choice in the history of ever.

After a 10-hour drive, I got out of the car and burst into tears because I managed to land right in the middle of a “neighborhood in transition.” (Pro Tip: If anyone shares that phrase about an area you’re considering, run. Run like hell. Don’t look back.)

The house itself, gorgeous. I found a lovely compound that consisted of a main house, a pool cottage and the most charming tropical garden hugging the patio and pool area for wonderful privacy. As long as I stayed inside the fence, life was sweet.

However, living inside the safety bubble isn’t realistic. One must get out and about. So, I did what any good southern girl would do . . . I went to church. A 90-minute sermon and an overly-enthusiastic hug from a stranger later, I fought the urge to stop exploring.

Get out and try, get out and try, get out and try rang in my head. I wanted to learn to love the place I was planted.

Along the streets, rehabbers, junkies and dealers danced a dangerous waltz between sobriety and addiction.

At the grocery store, broken souls in shabby clothes shuffled outside, asking for money and help.

For the first time in my life, I looked around and realized that I was the minority.

These encounters served to illuminate my simple abundance – a place to live, a car to drive, a closet full of nice clothes and a wonderful job to fund it all. By comparison, I have nothing to complain about. I am not greeted as “different” or an “outsider” when I walk into most places . . . and most of these people have been labeled nothing but since moving to this country.

I tried out shops and restaurants, my friends and family came to visit and I took walks to soak it all in and figure it all out . . . but I wasn’t ready for the reality I had coming.

One Saturday morning, I woke up early with the distinct need for sidewalk time. I laced up, grabbed a bottle of water and popped in my earbuds. For the first time, I was a bit more at ease. I walked over to the beach and took in the salt air, smiling at faces of every age and heritage.

Then, she happened.

As I approached the drawbridge on my return home, a slip of a woman emerged from underneath and shimmied through hedges onto the sidewalk. She wobbled on weak, pencil-thin legs a few yards ahead of me, yelling over the guard rail to the man below. I slowed my pace and tried to assess what was happening in front of me.

Was she a junkie? Did she fail recovery? Was she yelling to her husband below?

When I got close enough to hear the words, she was definitely not yelling at her husband below. She was working.

Approaching, I tried to make plenty of noise so I wouldn’t startle her and be shoved into oncoming traffic.

Clothes-hanger shoulders balanced a mass of gnarly knotted hair . . . not quite colored, not quite not. It was evident she hadn’t had the luxury of a shower in several days, if not weeks. And, just as a deep-seated sympathy began to dance with fear of the unknown, I announced “Coming by on your left.”

Her head whipped to face me. I met the hollow blue eyes that earlier spilled tears which turned her mascara into water color rivulets, pooled and puddled into the lines of her worn face. Red lipstick smeared from mouth to ear, temporarily distracting from the black and yellow snarl of rotted teeth.

Compassion and terror clashed at my core as a guttural growl escaped her sunken cheeks. On one hand, I wanted to take her for a Clorox shower and to feed her a decent meal. On the other hand, self-preservation urged my feet to take flight.

But not without paying a mental price.

What defined the desperation that drove her decisions and landed her there? How old was she? Who taught her her worth? And how far away are any of us from doing the things we think we would never do?

In my world of non-answers, I know one thing for sure . . . none of these people – the junkies, the dealers, the homeless or the hooker – none of them asked for this. Not a single one of them said they wanted to be these things when they grew up. They had dreams– to be teachers, astronauts, firemen and parents. Then, somewhere along the way, life happened.

Life happens.

And the life that happens outside the bubble is starling in contrast to the life of friendly neighbors, new cars and unlocked doors that I left behind in North Carolina.

Since my initial arrival I made another move to a town that gives me a greater sense of security and safety. But, those initial encounters will linger forever.

Where are you today? Have you offered thanks and shown your appreciation for the people and circumstances that brought you this far?

After all, you never know when the tide might change, running you into the rocky shore that bursts your safety bubble. And maybe having your bubble burst isn’t such a bad thing. Because seeing life, people and circumstances from a vulnerable perspective has a sneaky way of opening the heart and softening the mind.

So, to my family and friends – all of you who cheerlead me, listen to me and love me in spite of my truest self – I appreciate you. To those of you who let me swim in the bottomless pool of your sweet fellowship – thank you. I love you, I need you and I want you in my life. I know without doubt that I can’t do it solo.

The Tortoise Wins Again

People typically stereotype the South with sleepy little towns, Maw & Paw, sweet tea and drawls. Sure, there are stereotypes for a reason and those places do exist.

It’s just that Charlotte isn’t one of those places. And I’m not one of those people. (Well, okay, I have the drawl.)

I want things now, Now, NOW, dammit! When the light turns green, I drive like I mean it. North Carolina IS the home of Nascar, after all.

Back home, waiters and waitresses want to turn tables, so we’re greeted with water and back to the office in less than an hour.

And, on occasion, a trip to the grocery more closely resembles an old episode of Supermarket Sweep (or an MMA cage match, depending on the holiday).

Point is, I was surprised – strike that, gobsmacked – to move to Florida and go slow. Not just slow . . . slllllooooooooooooooooooooooowwwww.

The speed limit is slow.

The people crossing the street are slow.

Chick-Fil-A is slow. (And, by the way, they don’t even say, “Thank you,” much less, “Our pleasure to serve you at the window.” Side eyes.)

Regular restaurant service is slow.

Even the wind is slow.

Is it the heat? Does the sun melt everyone into a syrupy stupor this close to the equator . . . arms and legs dripping and heavy with humidity, making it impossible to move with the quickness?

Or . . .

Is it me?

Moving to a new town shines an interrogation light on your personal attributes in a much brighter way than travel ever does.

I look around and don’t see other people yelling, “Oh for fuck’s sake, go!!!” (Maybe I’m just missing them???)

I also don’t see other people obsessing about schedules. It seems there’s just an, “I’ll get to it when I get to it,” attitude. And that might not be so bad.

Is it a small town thing? A beach town thing? A retiree thing?

Their faces are relaxed and body language easy. No one seems to be in any particular hurry to get anywhere. Where they are is just fine. And, upon consideration, that really doesn’t seem so bad.

Is it contagious?

Will I catch some of it if I start licking people’s faces? (Is that bad manners???)

The collective THEY say that we must be present in the present to truly experience joy and embrace happiness. That said, I should (perhaps) take a page from the Tortoise and retire my inner Hare.

Maybe I need to stop worrying about where I’m going and at what pace I’m getting there. Maybe I should learn to slow down and enjoy my current station.

Maybe I should park my car, buy a bike and some flip flops . . . and let life unfold gently.

One thing’s for sure, this move is changing me. I believe it’s for anything other than better. Otherwise, that would be a waste of time. (wink)

Even so . . . I want my nuggets now, Now, NOW, dammit!

Everybody’s an Asshole

I moved to Florida from North Carolina 6 weeks ago and, I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a challenge. I have to use GPS to find the grocery store . . . there’s always a weird film on my windshield . . . possums, alligators, tiny ants and no-see-ums. (Dear LORD, where did those things come from, because I’m fairly certain they could only be of the devil.)

Perhaps the most shocking revelation is other people’s reaction to finding out where I’m from.

Pleasantries are exchanged; my accent noted. “Where are you from? I hear a little Southern accent.” (A little? Like the Atlantic’s a LITTLE wet?)

“I just moved down from Charlotte, North Carolina,” I say with a smile.

My arm is grabbed, Momma-style. Eyes widen.

“OMG . . . be careful. Everybody here is an asshole.”

Now, just what the hot hell am I supposed to say to something like that?!?!? “Thank you soooooo much for your warning. I will promptly go home and lock the doors and stop trying to make friends and build a network in my new zip code.” What the what???

“It’s a cowboy state,” they say. “Don’t leave anything visible in your car. Always lock every door. Don’t talk to strangers. And DEFINITELY don’t collect any free puppies from the van.”

I only kid (a little) about that last one.

Perhaps I’m aggressive in my assessment. It isn’t EVERY Floridian I meet who says horrible things about their state & neighbors.

In my short time, I’ve met a number extraordinarily friendly, emotionally open and very inclusive people. These are the folks who have said, “Let me introduce you to some friends. Would you like to join us for dinner? Want to go to the beach? I’ll ask if any apartments are available.”

These are the people who get my number and actually call or text. These are the people who check in on my settling in. These are the people who are happy to share a little of their love and light with the new girl.

These people are the keepers.

And, when I think about it, I’m truly grateful the non-keepers make it readily apparent who they are by presenting negativity at every turn. I’m glad for the obvious visual assessment and categorization, the words of “warning” and offers to screen people so I know if they’re “socially acceptable to know” or not. (Not even exaggerating or making that up.)

These people are not my tribe.

I let them pass freely and send them a little light and love for their journey, so as to keep plenty of space open for those who do bring the bright and shiny into my life.

So, the next time someone says, “Brace yourself, everyone’s an asshole,” I’ll have to bite my tongue. Because I’ll be thinking, “Maybe that’s just what YOU bring to the table.”